The Amazing Disappearing Customers!

Today, whilst buying mags from Ben, the co-ordinator at Waterloo, I asked to have a look at the latest list of sales figures, listed by vendor number. The list was from the week before last and as Ben looked at it he said “Your figures are wrong on here, surely?” I told him that, no, unfortunately, the figures were quite correct – my sales dropped by a quarter to a third after New Year when three of the Kent platforms closed and those trains could no longer stop at London Bridge. Since then my sales have dropped to half of pre-Christmas levels leaving me in rather a woeful state. In the last three months I have been in debt more than out and the whole situation is beginning to feel quite hopeless. The recent losses in sales are due to people avoiding the rail chaos that is London Bridge and instead they are travelling to Charing Cross, Blackfriars (which apparently is quite a civilised choice), Victoria and Cannon Street. I have no idea how this will all end but it’s not looking hopeful for me – getting new people to buy when they have been walking past and ignoring you for months is very difficult. Most regular customers are the sort of generous people who would buy the magazine automatically, without thinking, usually from a vendor who is a regular fixture on their route to work. If they changed jobs or offices, then they would automatically scout around for a convenient vendor and then transfer their allegiance to them, usually with no thought at all – they are just naturally kind and generous. Unfortunately, most of the 46,000 people who pass me in the morning are not naturally kind and generous – in fact a large number of them can be rude, arrogant and thoughtless. So my task is now much, much harder than it has ever been before – and with no guarantee of any success. Keep watching to see how I fare – Sharon

The Whiteboard Returns!! (About Time Too!)

Last week I finally saved enough dosh to pay for my liability insurance so that if my whiteboard becomes a negligent public menace, you know, knocking people over just for the hell of it, they can be reassured that they will be amply compensated! Up to a million smackers in fact, but don’t let those serial insurance-for-injuries claiming types know or before you can say “whiplash” they will be suffering from it! Anyone who trips or falls within 20 feet of my board or even rucksack will be investigated long and hard for pretence of pain symptoms. I am really glad to have it back as during the three weeks that I was without it my sales were pretty awful. Now this might be due to people over-spending in the Easter hols but you never know in my job. Anyway, the board is back and I am really looking forward to getting some great messages down this week. Many thanks as usual to all my regulars who helped me with the insurance financially and also those who helped me with my feelings of helplessness and anger and my being miserable over the whole issue of whiteboard safety. See you on the bridge soon – Sharon

Health and Safety Gone Mad (Again)!

I am sure you have all seen my whiteboard that I write messages on to keep the public up to date with what is happening in my life. This week a plain clothes policeman reported me to the Big Issue office as using language on the board that could be construed as begging. The notice on the board actually said – Lots of people on hols this week (lucky them!). Sales Tues 8/Wed 7 so not so hot – please stop and help, it will make you feel great!
So this was the supposed “begging” message. Unfortunately the Big I office was more interested in the board itself. The vendor co-ordinator, Chris, asked me – what is this board you have, where is it, how big is it, where is it in relation to the passing public etc. Now, everyone in the Big Issue office has seen my blog and also the film of my day that world-class journalist, Danielle Batist did for an online magazine article and my board features prominently in all these. I had to go into the office for a dressing-down about my potentially dangerous board and I have been told that I may use it only if I buy public limited liability insurance in case someone gets hurt by the board. Basically they are terrified that someone will try to sue them in such a situation, even though I am not an employee of the Big Issue as such, I am self-employed – if I was one of their employees then I would surely be covered by their own insurance. So now I have to raise £58 for insurance before I can entertain the passers-by with my wonderfully witty board! That’s definitely health and safety gone extremely mad – especially as my board has been in situ for three years already with no problems. If you have a minute, please email the Vauxhall office of the Big Issue and tell them how ridiculous all this is – thank you.

Bored!!! (but time to give thanks too)

I am sitting here on a Sunday afternoon and amazingly I find that I have enough spare time to be bored! I very rarely have spare time to start with, so being bored too is a VERY rare occurrence! I am starting a new phase tomorrow in that I will be standing at Cannon Street station in order to try to see some of my missing customers. They are not missing or lost themselves but I have missed them very much at my pitch at London Bridge – I seem to be 40% down on regular customers this month due to changes in where the trains stop. So tomorrow will be a big risk; I know I will make SOMETHING on my usual spot but am not guaranteed to make ANYTHING anywhere else. So we shall see what happens and I will let you all know within a day or two how it went (fingers crossed etc).

Also I would like to take the opportunity – as I seem to have this very rare spare time to fill – to thank a few people who have really touched me recently with their help and kindness. Firstly – massive thanks to Phil and Clare (&kids) for giving weekly help with my rent, promised until the end of February, when normally sales/profits pick up a little as people clear some of their Christmas credit card bills. Just the thought that they discussed my problem and then decided to help (despite family obligations) is so lovely (I actually got rather tearful when Phil explained what they were going to do). It is also far too cold to consider returning to live in the summerhouse at the moment, so the help is very gratefully accepted. Thanks also to Kelly (I hope that is right!) for the bag of lovely food etc last week: thanks also to Nick for the fabulous hand warmers – so essential at the moment and as always, many thanks to Mr Rob Clarkson (Big Drumroll here) of Horley for the coffees, hand warmers, jokes and his excellent talent at keeping my spirits up (I believe we should have been siblings in an alternate universe – I would have loved to be your older sister!). Thanks too for things too numerous to mention, to Jackie West, Nick who sails, Mr John Merrett, little Julie who comes from Waterloo East, for testing the journey to get to my pitch, and many others who I will attempt to name over the next few weeks, but never forgetting Mr Adam Nottage and his lovely wife Coral, for their never-ending help, concern and love. When the going gets tough, you really know who your friends are!! Back in a day or so – Sharon